Letter to Michele Leggott
Our old house went unconditional today to contract number four.
This does mean that Michael will paint the rest of his John Leech show
in our new lounge as the tenants are in the barn until mid June.
Quite fitting — bearing in mind the poems I am currently writing — to be thinking
in the syrup of oils. I get all Zen out here sometimes and jump at the sound of a voice as I drink
artichokes lentils rocket saffron rice
Sangiovese grape juice from Heron’s Flight
up the long drive to check the mail and the bird calls
a bath or shower outside in the rain
every corner sky, bush through every frame
an overflow, ‘I should be a real poet’
a clearing, ‘content to be in the moment’
a beauty, ‘and hold my tongue’
This is what I mean:
I crouch on the bent page like a displaced comma,
quite prepared to drop my eyelids on
everyone else’s latest books.
I think the latest books
At night they reflect the stars
the words lagooning in the pitch black
the words yellowing on the open sand.
It’s because I can’t bear the drone of discontent.
By looking at the poems so hard
implacable old lines, lovable old lines
they become quartered with brightness
and then, the falling
the wind crashing against the cliffs of thought
the seaspray cutting into my skin.
I find myself back in the bush fishing in the ravines between
and wanting to look out our largest window
(how large it is)
for an eternity, touched by the line
patient for the hawk and the kereru.
I read Ian’s ‘Letter to Peter McLeavey’
towing the lines
in fabulous isolation.
Streamy and cunning,
by no means a placid lake
nor an abandoned station,
in other words
poetry goes a long way
poetry makes do.
So you may see it,
blood is red
the sea is blue.
it’s bare-lipped and brooding,
a simple window
so you may move it
across the shivers
the icy water and
the spectacular plains.
Today the gusty wind
dumps extravagant rain
upon my day.
I am in beauty.
The old wet gumboots
have no right place yet
in our house.
We move them
out of the rain.
Paula Green lives in West Auckland with her partner, artist Michael Hight, and their two children. She is the author of four poetry collections published by Auckland University Press: Cookhouse (1997), Chrome (2000), Crosswind (2004) and a collection for children entitled Flamingo Bendalingo (2006). Making Lists For Frances Hodgkins is forthcoming from Auckland University Press. Paula was the 2005 Literary Fellow at the University of Auckland. During that year, she curated ‘Poetry on the Pavement’ as part of the Auckland City Council’s ‘Living Room’ project. Paula is writing a new collection of poems for children, radically redrafting a novel, and has a new children’s story, Aunt Concertina and Her Niece Evalina, in the wings.
Green comments: ‘Towards the end of 2005 I became very ill and, for the first time in my life, found myself unable to eat or undertake my usual array of daily tasks. From my “sick bed” I agreed to do a poetic response to the Frances Hodgkins exhibition at the Auckland City Art Gallery knowing I would have a few months up my sleeve. My recovery was slow but sure as I lived off homemade juices, the reproductions of Frances, and all the latest New Zealand poetry books (2005). While I couldn’t sustain the attention a novel demanded poems became an electric release from my physical fragility.
‘In my head I slowly assembled the seeds of a new collection that emerged from my love of New Zealand poetry, a new relationship with the work of Frances (whose work I had always whizzed past in galleries without a second glance), and this unexpected illness. I found myself playing around with lists to such an extent I decided to call the accumulating poems Making Lists For Frances Hodgkins.
‘This is the first poem that I wrote that engaged with some of the poetry books on my bed. During this time I had felt quite isolated and wrote letters in the form of poems that were in part speaking to someone who had affected me as a writer but in other ways were letters to myself. I wanted to reassure myself that I was capable of conversation.
‘This poem is also an unashamed celebration of the New Zealand landscape. It is the first poem that I wrote in our new home in Bethell’s valley where the sky and bush and native birdlife are supreme.’